Director of the Center for Appalachian Studies: Dr. Patricia D. Beaver

Mary Jane Putzel (left), a graduate of Appalachian Studies Department, talks with Pat Beaver (right), Director of the Center for Appalachian Studies, early 1980s

Dr. Patricia D. Beaver was Chair of the Anthropology Department, Director of the Asian Studies program, and for twenty years served as Director of the Center for Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State University. She has been a leading scholar in the field of Appalachian Studies for over four decades. Beaver led the Center in its multi-disciplinary and regionally focused programs. Awarded a doctorate in anthropology from Duke University in 1976, she began her career at ASU teaching courses in the Anthropology Department.

Beaver has conducted research in Appalachia, Wales, and China, with an interest in communities often viewed through the lens of collaborative research. Many of her courses overlapped with Appalachian Studies, Asian Studies and Women’s Studies. Beaver’s continued research focused on cultural and ethnic diversity in Appalachia, with special attention to the African American and Jewish communities in Asheville, North Carolina, Melungeon history and identity, and rehistoricizing gender and ethnicity.

Faculty members of the Anthropology Department standing with a model skeleton (left to right): Patricia Beaver, Brian Bennett, Cheryl Claassen, Greg Reck, and Susan Keefe, circa 1986–1987

Beaver has written or edited nine books and many articles. She is co-editor of Helen Matthews Lewis: Living Social Justice in Appalachia (Kentucky University Press, 2012). She was a project director of the federal Appalachian Land Ownership Study, discussed in Who Owns Appalachia (University Press of Kentucky, 1983); her groundbreaking survey that detailed the overwhelming amount of absentee land ownership across Appalachia.

Beaver was also co-editor with Burton Purrington of Cultural Adaptions to Mountain Environments (University of Georgia Press, 1984), author of Rural Community in the Appalachian South (Waveland, 1996), and co-editor with Carol Hill of Cultural Diversity in the US South (University of Georgia Press, 1998). Sher was also Associate Editor for the NWSA Journal (National Women’s Studies Association) from 1997–2000. Beaver was vice president of the Council on Appalachian Women and also served as president of the Appalachian Studies Association and the Southern Anthropological Society.

Beaver served as advisor and one of the producers for “After Coal,” a documentary profiling individuals creating sustainable communities as central Appalachia and South Wales transition away from a fossil fuel economies. The film was part of a pioneering initiative to draw parallels between Appalachia and other mountain regions around the world.

Sociology and Anthropology Department in the College of Arts and Sciences; First row (left to right): Brian Bennett, F. M. Lovrich, Jan Rienerth, Harvard Ayers, S. M. Perry, Steve Hall; Second row (left to right): Mike Wise, Albert Hughes, Al Greene, Pat Beaver, Greg Reck, Lester Keasey, Louie Brown, Virginia Foxx, Larry Keeter, A.M. Denton, Burt Purringtin, circa 1974–1975

Among the many awards she has received was Beaver’s appointment in 1995 to Appalachian’s Academy of Outstanding Teachers. In 1986, Beaver was the recipient of the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award from the Western North Carolina Historical Association. In 2016, the Western North Carolina Historical Association (WNCHA) recognized Beaver for her outstanding contributions to both individuals and organizations in preserving and promoting the history of the Appalachian mountain region. She is also the recipient of the Cratis Williams/James Brown Award from the Appalachian Studies Association.

Beaver retired in 2013 and is Professor Emeritus at Appalachian State University. She lives in Ashe County with her husband, Bob White. They have two children and two grandchildren.

AC.662 Patricia Duane Beaver Papers, 1900–2013, Undated is housed with the W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection located in Special Collections on the fourth floor of the Belk Library and Information Commons at Appalachian State University and can be requested from the closed stacks at the Cratis Williams Reading Room.